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Worse still, her picture and profile have been plastered across tawdry dating websites belonging to ‘lads mags’ such as Nuts and Loaded that are more associated with scantily-clad girls in semi-pornographic poses than professional, middle-aged women like Jenny.Unbeknown to Jenny, justsingle is run by a parent company called Global Personals — a legitimate company most members never will have heard of, but which passes members’ details freely between the 7,500 sites it owns, meaning they are inundated with unwanted and inappropriate advances.
‘Our job is to get our members in front of as many other members as possible.
Within weeks, Jenny got her first warning signal: She’d begun emailing a fellow single parent from her area and the pair had swapped phone numbers:‘I texted him and said “it’s Jenny from Just Single Parents” and he replied “what? ‘I know I got emails that weren’t from real people,’ she told Channel 4 News.
‘You’d ask a man a question, such as how many children he had, and would get a reply tell you how happy they are they’ve met you.’She adds: ‘You don’t realise to start with that these companies they have “ice breaker” messages saying “I like your profile” or “you’ve got a lovely smile” that are sent to all the women in East Sussex between the ages of 35 and 55. After a while you realise a lot of the messages you get are sent to hundreds of people, not just you.’‘I remember one email I got that persuaded me to re-join was from a good-looking, wealthy single father who ran his own building business,’ says Jenny.
Global Personals — whose headquarters are in Windsor, Berkshire — makes £40 m a year, employs 130 staff and is believed to take a 40 per cent cut of every membership subscription, with the remainder going to the spin-off company.‘Internet dating seemed the best way of meeting people,’ she says. It’s the last place you would expect to find me and a waste of time and money.
‘But I’m shocked by how many sites I’ve ended up on. Certainly, Jenny’s experience serves as a cautionary tale to those tempted by the increasingly popular world of online romance, said to be worth £2 billion globally.
The company has also created ‘fake’ profiles, by lifting photographs off the internet, and ordering staff to flirt with unsuspecting members, outrageously flattering them into renewing their subscriptions.
Disturbingly, their deception has proved an unqualified success.
She first started internet dating in September 2008, eight months after her seven-year marriage ended. With membership costing £20 a month and members all purportedly having experienced single parenthood, she was more likely to meet like-minded people, she reasoned.
Worryingly, the practice, while misleading, is perfectly legal.
‘Part of me suspected it was too good to be true, but I replied anyway.’ And, surprise surprise, she never heard back.‘I only met most of them once, for a drink,’ she says.
‘One, a store manager, had joined a website called Old Flirt. They came from geographical and rock music dating sites. One didn’t even know I had a son, which was the whole point.
’‘It’s upsetting and annoying that you don’t know where your picture is going to end up.